National Football League
Saquon Barkley is living a dream in Eagles' star-studded offense
National Football League

Saquon Barkley is living a dream in Eagles' star-studded offense

Published May. 29, 2024 12:28 p.m. ET

Saquon Barkley felt a little weird wearing green the first time he put his new Philadelphia Eagles jersey on. But that was nothing compared to what he felt the first time he jogged onto the field and joined the Eagles' huddle.

That was truly an experience the 27-year-old running back has never had before.

"The biggest thing that struck me is our first 7-on-7 huddle," Barkley said last week. "You see A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert and Jalen Hurts. It's not a bad group to be out there with. And that's not even including the offensive linemen."

He wouldn't use this term — especially since it's a sore spot in Eagles history — but it must have felt like a "Dream Team" to the veteran back. For the first six years of his career, spent with undermanned, marginally talented New York Giants teams, Barkley couldn't have even dreamed of having a group of teammates like that.


It was a reminder of why this year could truly be special for Barkley. And it's a reminder that while money was surely the biggest thing that lured him to Philly — in the form of a three-year, $37.75 million contract with $26 million guaranteed — the attraction of moving 90 miles down the New Jersey Turnpike was really about more than that.

"There's a lot of talent," Barkley said. "There was a lot of talent before I got here. I feel like I only can add to that."

How much talent? It's not just that the Eagles might have more offensive talent than any team in the NFL. It's that for the previous six seasons Barkley was generally surrounded by one of the least talented offensive teams in the league. Barkley somehow managed three 1,000-yard rushing seasons (and nearly a fourth) even though he was constantly surrounded by players who, at best, would be backups on the Eagles this year.

Here's a closer look at just how wide the talent gap is between what Barkley is surrounded with now in Philadelphia, and what he was surrounded with during his six years in New York:


The upgrade in quarterback for Barkley this season can't possibly be overstated. Jalen Hurts was an MVP candidate in 2022. And he had a statistically similar season last year, with the notable exception of a big increase in interceptions. Over the past two seasons, he's averaged 3,779.5 passing yards on 66 percent passing with 22.5 touchdown passes and 10.5 interceptions.

Daniel Jones has never put up passing numbers close to that. His best season was 2022, when he threw for 3,205 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions, and nobody thought he was in Hurts' class. Yes, he's a dual-threat quarterback, but Hurts is a better one. Hurts has averaged 682.5 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns the past two seasons. Jones had one year like that — again in 2022, when he ran for 708 yards and seven touchdowns.

And Jones was constantly battling injuries, leaving Barkley to spend far too much time playing with quarterbacks like Tommy DeVito, Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm. The Giants' quarterback play in his tensure has been generally so bad, in fact, that a good argument can be made that the best quarterback he played for was Eli Manning in 2018 — Barkley's rookie season. Manning threw for 4,299 yards and 21 touchdowns that season, and it was clear to everyone that was watching him that he was on the last legs of his career.

Hurts is closer to the beginning and he's already approaching those Manning numbers, while running better than Jones. He's so good in both departments that for the first time in his career Barkley won't have to carry the offensive load.

"The Philadelphia Eagles will run away with this division" — Skip Bayless


When Barkley looked up in the Eagles' huddle and saw Brown and Smith, he was looking at one of the best receiving tandems in the NFL over the last two seasons. They each topped 1,000 receiving yards in both years. Brown topped 1,400 in both. They have combined for an absurd 370 catches, 5,214 yards and 32 touchdowns in two seasons together — or an average of 93-1,304-8 per season, each.

In New York, Barkley played with one receiver who even approached those numbers — Odell Beckham, who was 77-1,052-6 in 12 games when Barkley was a rookie. Not coincidentally, that was Barkley's best receiving year, when he had 91 catches for 721 yards.

After that, Beckham was traded and the Giants' receivers went off a cliff. Barkley got the benefit of two injury-shortened seasons from Sterling Shepard (who had 123 catches and 1,226 yards in 22 games over the 2019 and 2020 seasons). But since then the position has been a black hole. Darius Slayton has mostly been the Giants' No. 1 receiver, but his best year was last year when he had 50 catches for 770 yards — making him good enough to maybe be the Eagles' third receiver this year.

That's why defenses have loaded up to stop Barkley since the end of his rookie season, knowing that no one else on the Giants' roster was much of a threat. With Brown and Smith on Barkley's side, defenses can't do that anymore. And it should open up receiving opportunities for him, too.

Tight end

This is the only position where it can even be argued that Barkley had Eagles-like talent around him in New York. Because for the first four years of his career, the Giants' tight end was Evan Engram. Of course, that was before Engram had his breakout in Jacksonville, where he had 114 catches for 963 yards last year.

Engram's best season with the Giants was 63-654-1 in 2020. Dallas Goedert has averaged 57-708-3 over the past three seasons in Philly, though he's had trouble staying healthy and missed a total of 10 games. Engram is probably the better overall receiver now that the Jaguars have figured out how to use him. Goedert is the better blocker. He's a sneaky dangerous receiver, though, who might do a lot more damage if there were only enough balls to go around.

Did Saquon Barkley make the right decision leaving the Giants?

Offensive line

This might be the starkest comparison between what Barkley has now and what he's suffered behind in six seasons in New York. The Eagles' line has consistently been one of the NFL's best. The Giants' line has consistently been one of the NFL's worst.

It's hard to tell the story of just how wide the gap is with numbers, but this one does a decent job of it. Barkley, on average, ran just one yard before getting hit last season, according to Pro Football Focus. D'Andre Swift, the Eagles' primary back last year, averaged 2.1 yards before contact.

With an extra yard before first contact, Barkley — who ran for 962 yards in 14 games last year — would have run for at least 271 more.

Also, consider this: During Barkley's six years in New York, the Giants have had 29 different starting offensive linemen — the result of injuries, benching, and a constant revolving door of journeymen and bottom-of-the-roster talent.

Now it should feel to him like he's riding behind a Rolls Royce.  There probably isn't a better tackle tandem in the NFL than Jordan Mailata on the left and Lane Johnson on the right. And Landon Dickerson is a two-time Pro Bowler at left guard. The Eagles do have questions up front thanks to the retirement of Jason Kelce, a likely future Hall of Fame center. But they have been preparing for Cam Jurgens to take over at center for two years, and they have high hopes that Tyler Steen, last year's third-round pick, can fill in at right guard.

Even with those worry spots, there's no comparison. Barkley is going to get support and consistent blocking for the first time in his NFL career.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.


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